ACLU Sues For Release Of Justice Department Ethics Report On "Torture Memo" Lawyers

January 22, 2010 2:11 pm

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NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit today to compel the Department of Justice (DOJ) to make public a report from the DOJ’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) that examines possible ethics violations by the lawyers who wrote the Bush administration’s “torture memos.” The ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in December seeking the release of the report, which Attorney General Eric Holder said in late November would be released imminently.

“Under the Bush administration, the Office of Legal Counsel issued a series of memos intended to permit interrogators to use methods that the United States had previously described as war crimes,” said Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project. “As a result of those memos, hundreds of prisoners were abused and tortured, and some were even killed during the course of interrogations. The public has a legitimate interest in knowing whether the authors of the memos violated ethical rules as well as the criminal laws, and in ensuring that those who wrote the memos, as well as those who authorized torture, are held accountable. The release of the ethics report is long overdue.”

The OPR is responsible for investigating allegations of misconduct by DOJ attorneys. The long-awaited report relates to an OPR ethics probe that considers the work of three DOJ attorneys — Steven Bradbury, John Yoo and Jay Bybee — who authorized the torture and abusive interrogation of detainees in U.S. custody through legal memoranda the three authored while at the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC). All served senior positions in the OLC. Yoo is now a professor of law; Bradbury is in private practice; and Bybee is a federal judge.

The Bush torture program has severely damaged America’s standing in the world,” said Alex Abdo, a legal fellow with the ACLU National Security Project. “We cannot move forward from that lawless era until we investigate and account for violations committed by those responsible for this illegal program. The results of the OPR’s ethics probe are a crucial part of that process. The report must be released now.”

The ACLU requested the ethics report under the FOIA in December 2009. The request was filed with the Justice Department and its Office of Professional Responsibility.

In the years since 9/11, ACLU lawsuits brought to enforce the Freedom of Information Act have played an invaluable role in informing the American people of outrageous conduct by their government in the name of the war on terror,” said Arthur Spitzer, Legal Director of the ACLU of the Nation’s Capital. “This case is the latest in that series.”

Lawyers in the case are Jaffer and Abdo of the ACLU National Security Project and Spitzer and Frederick Mulhauser of the ACLU of the Nation’s Capital.

A copy of today’s lawsuit is available online at:

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